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  • What Good Networkers Do… and Don’t Do

    Business Meeting from ShutterstockAre you a good networker, or a bad networker? Do people who can help you look forward to meeting with you, or dread it? Do you tend to get what you want, or are you frustrated with your networking results? This article will give you lots of do’s and don’ts to consider for improving your networking results and enjoyment.

    Last Friday, I had lunch with a former client who created, and continues to build, a successful consulting practice. We enjoyed catching up regarding each of our practices and, at the end, agreed that we should have lunch more often. I went back to my office and referred him to two of my best networking contacts — a business attorney and an accounting firm partner. Likewise, he agreed to introduce me to a prospective client who wanted to find a new job and to a business owner who needed to hire some people. We both got something notably useful from our meeting.

    This was an excellent, enjoyable, and productive networking lunch that we both want to repeat in the future. Let me share some of the things I believe we did right during our lunch and contrast these with what I have observed bad networkers are doing wrong, so that you can do more of the good stuff and avoid the bad stuff:

    – We were meeting with someone with whom we had a strong, positive relationship, whereas bad networkers spend lots of time engaging new contacts or people they hardly know.
    – We met in person to strengthen our interpersonal rapport and gain face-to-face nonverbal feedback to foster mutual understanding, whereas bad networkers many times attempt to achieve their goals over the phone or through email.
    – We spent the first portion of the meeting catching up on what had happened since our last meeting before we got around to discussing how to help each other, whereas bad networkers jump right into what they want too early.
    – We each spoke about the same amount of time and gave each other our undivided attention when the other was speaking, whereas bad networkers tend to dominate the conversation and not listen.
    – We both explained clearly what we needed so the other person would have the best chance of helping us, whereas bad networkers ramble and many times fail to focus and clearly articulate what they want or need.
    – We both worked hard to uncover ways of helping each other and the results were well balanced, whereas bad networkers get everything they can out of the other person and then give lip service to possibly helping them in the future.

    One of the more extreme examples of bad networking, which I encounter at least once a week, is the typical job seeker. I describe them as “mobile blood bank operators.” They show up saying they want to network, but end up drawing a pint of blood (figuratively) from you and then moving on. This is why many people do not want to network with job seekers — especially those who are unemployed.

    In Chapter 12 of Fast Track Your Job Search (and Career!), I describe a four step process for conducting an effective job search networking meeting. The four steps are warm up (catch up), discuss how to help the other person, discuss how you can be helped, and summarize specific actions to be taken.

    Whether you are a good networker or a bad networker, we all have areas where we can improve. Apply the fundamentals of good networkers outlined in this article and you can become an excellent one. And excellent networkers get far more of what they want!

    Best wishes for your success.


    Richard Kirby is a Vistage Chair (http://www.vistage.com), executive coach (http://www.executivecareerconsultant.com), and author of the book/eBook Fast Track Your Job Search (http://tinyurl.com/k39rb2u). He helps business owners improve their business operations' financial performance and helps individuals improve their career financial performance. Richard is a Board Certified Coach (BCC) in career coaching and an ISO-recognized Certified Management Consultant (CMC).

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    Posted in Job Search, Networking, Personal Branding, Skill Development
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    4 comments on “What Good Networkers Do… and Don’t Do
    1. avatar
      L says:

      These aren’t examples of “Bad” and “Good” networkers. Your approach is a more personal indirect method, the one you bash is more professional and direct.

      There’s no right or wrong, good or bad way to network. There’s an Effective and Ineffective method to all approaches.

      Adaptability is key to being effective, know who you’re dealing with and being sure to establish a two-way line; whatever you request you give back. Because some people –mainly corporate execs, upper management, etc.– don’t want you wasting their time. And can smell BS from a mile away.

      They want you to be straight-forward with them. Not beat around the bush when they clearly see that you’re trying to befriend them with the goal of personal gain later down the line. That’s just a waste of time for some. Typically for the ‘Business first, pleasure second’ types. Personally, I think it’s a dishonest sneaky approach.

      But I do realize that some people prefer your method so I act accordingly to the person at hand or find people I know fit the business first personality.

      I noticed that you’re in HR so it makes sense why you would think this because HR’s main focus is on the cultural fit of the candidate. How much they like someone, how many friends will they make, do they want to be here, etc. That’s why most businesses hire recruiters for the core skills.

      Which I think is equally ineffective because they’re your polar opposites for the most part. They focus too much on skills that they don’t take into account the passion, will to improve, etc. of the candidate.

      Anyway, a bad networker to me is one that thinks there’s a one-size fits all strategy to networking.

      • avatar
        Richard Kirby says:

        Thanks for your reply. You challenge the title of my piece and a large amount of the content. I appreciate you expressing your opinion and hope that your alternative opinions will stimulate more discussion because I believe it important for people to utilize networking as a tool in their careers (and job searches). Of the hundreds of people with which I have discussed this topic, the vast majority did not utilize this tool sufficiently and most had little strategic idea of how to go about it.
        Four of my forty years in business were in HR, seven in engineering, 15 in corporate sales, and 12 years as an entrepreneur in which I sell services and coach individuals. These approaches work for me with 40K admins and 300K executives, but I agree with you the each person must (in the end) find an approach that works for them. Thanks again.

    2. avatar
      nigel says:

      Great article Richard,

      I absolutely agree with your observation that the are some important points to remember in being a good networker.

      I particularly liked your point about both working hard to uncover ways of helping each other and ensuring that the results were well balanced.

      I would also highlight the benefits of maintaining a diverse group of people within your network. I have found that people tend primarily to seek out others who do what they do and see the world as they do, decreasing the odds of developing truly innovative insights outside of their narrow domain of expertise.

      On the other hand, the most successful networkers are those who are look to connect people across different groups.

      This concept was first observed by the sociologist Mark Granovetter who identified the importance of “weak ties”. In terms of career development, Granovetter demonstrated that our most valuable connections are often those we may not know very well but who are to provide a bridge to new opportunities outside of our normal social groups.

      When looking at networking therefore we should not rely on contacts to whom we are close, hoping that they in turn will know somebody who knows somebody who will want what we have to offer. Nor should we simply try to make as many new contacts as possible in the hope that one in a hundred will pay off. Instead we are looking to bridge these gaps in networks, areas in which we are clearly qualified to add value.

      The importance of networking can’t be over estimated, particularly in todays age of information overload, where your connections can help focus your attention on the intelligence that’s actionable and relevant.
      In The Start Up of You, Linkedin co-founder Reid Hoffman develops this idea, stating
      “People offer personalized, contextualized advice. Friends and acquaintances know your interests and can tailor their information and advice accordingly…People can filter information you get from other sources. People can tell you which books to read; which search results to ignore; which people to trust or not trust.”

      Would love to hear your thoughts.

    3. avatar
      Richard Kirby says:

      Nigel, thanks for your comments.
      I agree with your opinion that there is power in creating a diverse network. This challenges people to make special efforts to get out of their relationship “comfort zones”.
      I am a believer in leveraging the strong contact relationships you currently have to be your strategic bridges to others as an effective way of expanding your network and adding contacts that could be thought of as “weak ties”. It has been my experience that many of these weak relationships become the conduit to great new career opportunities.
      Lastly, I joined LinkedIn in 2004 as one of the first 300K or so users and I agree with Mr. Hoffman’s comments.

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